Will Violence Forever Plague Hip-Hop? 

How did violence become related with Hip-hop music?

When a well-known rapper is shot or stabbed and killed, the hip-hop music industry laments, issues a few words, and then carries on as usual, producing material that exalts black homicide and trauma. Violence in the world of hip-hop can be traced to the very birth of the music genre. Block parties, which were particularly popular among African Americans adolescents living in the Bronx in New York City, helped to created hip-hop as both a musical genre and a lifestyle in the early 1970s. At the time, that’s all it was, a form of musical entertainment fostered by the young and talented African American, Latino Americans and Caribbean Americans, an ethnic minority that shared a need for a type of music that catered to their Culture.

With the birth of Gangsta rap as a subset of hip-hop in the 80s, and most especially the growth of the gangsta rap group N.W.A, it redefined the impact of hip-hop on society at large, with visceral, aggressive and street oriented raps. Violent lyrics that spoke about the living conditions of the oppressed while well intended to act as a voice has undoubtedly instigated listeners to further partake in violent acts. Drug use, gangsta rap, and violence are all products of living in an unkind society. Living in such circumstances has had a serious negative influence on the mental health of underprivileged youths growing up in slums and undeserving conditions. Without the necessary help, the community is struggling with paranoia, anxiety, despair and PTSD amongst a host of other problems. Hip-hop has in turn been used as a tool for speaking out and you can hear the agony and trauma in the lyrics of some of the most popular gangsta rap tracks.

The fact that Ice Cube needed an AK in his life in order to have a “Good Day” serves as a reminder that the majority of the violence depicted in hip-hop music is a result of the conditions of its author’s own lives. Art would not exist without the environment. The songs “Fuck Tha Police” and “Cop Killer” weren’t just political declarations, for the people in Los Angeles, they mirrored reality. Violence in hip-hop has always been brutal, full of bravado and arguments, but surviving wasn’t supposed to sound pleasant.

Hip-hop in the UK continues to evolve.

In the UK, beginning in the early 2000s, a more mainstream subset of the British hip-hop emerged, known as grime and has evolved into what is now drill music which has gained prominence since 2012. Numerous musicians who started out in obscurity have become well-known because of these musical genres. The development of a promising future for musicians who manage to create a niche for themselves in the world of British hip-hop has encouraged artistes over the last decade. Drill music’s use of lyrics and imagery that celebrates gang criminality and brutality has given rise to grave worries that it incites bloodshed. It is a prevalent belief that drill content frequently makes direct allusions to particular people or groups in a way that incites violent behavior. It is also believed that the spread of “diss songs” on YouTube and other platforms, in which groups can be heard criticizing or mocking their rivals, has made postcode rivalries and gang feuds more visible and intensified.

Drill content and other materials are frequently removed as part of policing operations without providing artists with a warning or an explanation even when there is no evidence of gang affiliations or an invitation to violence. This reinforces how the artists see racialized injustice and the police as a hindrance to legitimate economic achievement. The areas most impacted by violence and gang related problems may benefit from a constructive discourse if artists were made aware of the criteria used to determine why videos are deleted. 

Already, Drill music is eschewing the violent themes that characterized its previous incarnation. When academia, the criminal justice system, and children’s services are prepared to handle it, the genre is likely to undergo further changes or even disappear entirely(grime, a similarly demonized genre, is no longer as popular as it used to be in the 2000s). Drill music or should I say hip-hop at large should therefore not be the exclusive topic of this discussion; instead, it should cover youth culture more generally, young people’s usage of internet media, violence and the future of child protection.

Is there a solution to the problem?

Alternative suggestions ought to be taken into account. To the point of policing it, we shouldn’t entirely blame the hip-hop industry for the rise in violence. In order to lesson the violence we see on our streets, politicians and police officials need to cooperate with these artistes, educate them about the influence of their songs on impressionable young people and enlisting their support for the cause. Services tasked with safeguarding children from violence will be better able to carry out their duties with greater levels of support and consent from the communities most harmed by violence and gang-related harms when they are equipped with the finest knowledge, training and tools available. They will also lessen the possibility of slipping into “street illiteracy” when dealing with media like hip-hop and alienating young people by misrepresenting music, which they may or may not personally appreciate but which is a popular art form with a strong commercial history.

Thousands of supporters are glad to hit their palms and join the deafening chaos for every single individual, regrettable act of violence. The world’s troubles, according to cynics, reviewers,  and commentators, are caused by the imaginary violence in hip-hop music, despite the fact that they recognize the beauty and amusement in Guy Ritchie’s action movies. Even when the words are not physically destroying anything, there is still a dread of damage because violence by it’s very nature is disruptive. But that’s disrespectful to the artists and their ability to express themselves. We deserve to escape unpleasant realities amid the frenzied excitement of nefarious imagination, if only for a few fleeting minutes that the track of our favorite artists plays.

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